How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict

Avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation can hurt your relationships and create other negative outcomes. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you dread discord, but you can learn to dive into these tough talks by reframing your thoughts.

Begin from a place of curiosity and respect, and stop worrying about being liked. Conflict avoiders are often worried about their likability. While it’s natural to want to be liked, that’s not always the most important thing. Lean into the conversation with an open attitude and a genuine desire to learn. Start from a place of curiosity and respect — for both yourself and the other person. Genuine respect and vulnerability typically produce more of the same: mutual respect and shared vulnerability. Even when the subject matter is difficult, conversations can remain mutually supportive. Respect the other person’s point of view, and expect them to respect yours.

Focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying. People who shy away from conflict often spend a huge amount of time mentally rewording their thoughts. Although it might feel like useful preparation, ruminating over what to say can hijack your mind for the entire workday and sometimes even late into the night. And tough conversations rarely go as planned anyway. So take the pressure off yourself. You don’t actually need to talk that much during a difficult conversation. Instead, focus on listening, reflecting, and observing. For example, if a team member has missed another deadline, approach them by asking neutral, supportive questions: “I see the project is behind schedule. Tell me about the challenges you’re facing.” Then listen. Pause. Be interested and proactive. Gather as much detail as possible. Ask follow-up questions without blame.

Your genuine attention and neutrality encourage people to elaborate. For every statement the other person makes, mirror back what they’ve said, to validate that you understand them correctly.

Be direct. Address uncomfortable situations head-on by getting right to the point. Have a frank, respectful discussion where both parties speak frankly about the details of an issue. Talking with people honestly and with respect creates mutually rewarding relationships, even when conversations are difficult.

There are situations, however, where cultural or personality differences should be considered. If your culture is conflict avoidant or doesn’t value directness, you can still engage in challenging conversations. In these cases, shift your approach from overly direct to a respectful, affirming back-and-forth conversation. For instance, if the person you are talking with seems to not be picking up on what you are saying, ask them to repeat their understanding of what you’ve shared. As they reflect back what they’ve heard, you can adjust your message to make sure the conflict is moving toward resolution. This communication style is open and less threatening. 

Don’t put it off. How often is your response to conflict something like, “I don’t want to talk about it” or “It’s not that big a deal” or “It’s not worth arguing about”? If you’re always promising yourself that you’ll “bring it up next time it happens,” well, now’s the time. Instead of putting off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with, tackle it right away. Get your cards on the table so you can resolve the issue and move on.

It might seem risky to come right out and say something, but often that’s just what is needed. Give yourself or your counterpart a little bit of time to cool down, if necessary, and plan the general outline of what you want to convey and the outcome you desire. But then have the conversation, and make a plan to move on. After all the mental gymnastics of endlessly practicing conversations in your head, actually engaging in a two-way conversation can be inspiring, respectful, and productive.

Expect a positive outcome. You’ll struggle to follow this advice if you continue to go into a conflict telling yourself, “This is going to be a disaster.” Instead, tell yourself, “This will result in an improved relationship.”

Focus on the long-term gains that the conversation will create for the relationship. When your attention is focused on positive outcomes and benefits, it will shift your thinking process and inner dialogue to a more constructive place. As a result, you will grow more comfortable approaching the coworker who constantly criticizes and complains, or the subordinate who keeps underperforming.

Don’t ignore the tough situations you are aware of today. When the opportunity presents itself to provide unsolicited negative feedback to a difficult colleague or give a less-than-positive performance evaluation, summon the courage to address the conflict head-on.

https://hbr.org/2017/05/how-to-have-difficult-conversations-when-you-dont-like-conflict?fbclid=IwAR159cydba3islBV91jaAKSOfWgr2ALvksRuK6a7d2I2hKjWBRx6zpNYexQ

‘It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier

Taking a stroll with Shane O’Mara is a risky endeavour. The neuroscientist is so passionate about walking, and our collective right to go for walks, that he is determined not to let the slightest unfortunate aspect of urban design break his stride. So much so, that he has a habit of darting across busy roads as the lights change. “One of life’s great horrors as you’re walking is waiting for permission to cross the street,” he tells me, when we are forced to stop for traffic – a rude interruption when, as he says, “the experience of synchrony when walking together is one of life’s great pleasures”. He knows this not only through personal experience, but from cold, hard data – walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier.

We are wandering the streets of Dublin discussing O’Mara’s new book, In Praise of Walking, a backstage tour of what happens in our brains while we perambulate. Our jaunt begins at the grand old gates of his workplace, Trinity College, and takes in the Irish famine memorial at St Stephen’s Green, the Georgian mile, the birthplace of Francis Bacon, the site of Facebook’s new European mega-HQ and the salubrious seaside dwellings of Sandymount.

O’Mara, 53, is in his element striding through urban landscapes – from epic hikes across London’s sprawl to more sedate ambles in Oxford, where he received his DPhil – and waxing lyrical about science, nature, architecture and literature. He favours what he calls a “motor-centric” view of the brain – that it evolved to support movement and, therefore, if we stop moving about, it won’t work as well.

This is neatly illustrated by the life cycle of the humble sea squirt which, in its adult form, is a marine invertebrate found clinging to rocks or boat hulls. It has no brain because it has eaten it. During its larval stage, it had a backbone, a single eye and a basic brain to enable it to swim about hunting like “a small, water-dwelling, vertebrate cyclops”, as O’Mara puts it. The larval sea squirt knew when it was hungry and how to move about, and it could tell up from down. But, when it fused on to a rock to start its new vegetative existence, it consumed its redundant eye, brain and spinal cord. Certain species of jellyfish, conversely, start out as brainless polyps on rocks, only developing complicated nerves that might be considered semi-brains as they become swimmers.

Sitting at a desk all day, it’s easy to start feeling like a brainless polyp, whereas walking and talking, as we are this morning, while admiring the Great Sugar Loaf mountain rising beyond the city and a Huguenot cemetery formed in 1693, our minds are fizzing. “Our sensory systems work at their best when they’re moving about the world,” says O’Mara. He cites a 2018 study that tracked participants’ activity levels and personality traits over 20 years, and found that those who moved the least showed malign personality changes, scoring lower in the positive traits: openness, extraversion and agreeableness. There is substantial data showing that walkers have lower rates of depression, too. And we know, says O’Mara, “from the scientific literature, that getting people to engage in physical activity before they engage in a creative act is very powerful. My notion – and we need to test this – is that the activation that occurs across the whole of the brain during problem-solving becomes much greater almost as an accident of walking demanding lots of neural resources.”

O’Mara’s enthusiasm for walking ties in with both of his main interests as a professor of experimental brain research: stress, depression and anxiety; and learning, memory and cognition. “It turns out that the brain systems that support learning, memory and cognition are the same ones that are very badly affected by stress and depression,” he says. “And by a quirk of evolution, these brain systems also support functions such as cognitive mapping,” by which he means our internal GPS system. But these aren’t the only overlaps between movement and mental and cognitive health that neuroscience has identified.

I witnessed the brain-healing effects of walking when my partner was recovering from an acute brain injury. His mind was often unsettled, but during our evening strolls through east London, things started to make more sense and conversation flowed easily. O’Mara nods knowingly. “You’re walking rhythmically together,” he says, “and there are all sorts of rhythms happening in the brain as a result of engaging in that kind of activity, and they’re absent when you’re sitting. One of the great overlooked superpowers we have is that, when we get up and walk, our senses are sharpened. Rhythms that would previously be quiet suddenly come to life, and the way our brain interacts with our body changes.”

From the scant data available on walking and brain injury, says O’Mara, “it is reasonable to surmise that supervised walking may help with acquired brain injury, depending on the nature, type and extent of injury – perhaps by promoting blood flow, and perhaps also through the effect of entraining various electrical rhythms in the brain. And perhaps by engaging in systematic dual tasking, such as talking and walking.”

One such rhythm, he says, is that of theta brainwaves. Theta is a pulse or frequency (seven to eight hertz, to be precise) which, says O’Mara, “you can detect all over the brain during the course of movement, and it has all sorts of wonderful effects in terms of assisting learning and memory, and those kinds of things”. Theta cranks up when we move around because it is needed for spatial learning, and O’Mara suspects that walking is the best movement for such learning. “The timescales that walking affords us are the ones we evolved with,” he writes, “and in which information pickup from the environment most easily occurs.”

Essential brain-nourishing molecules are produced by aerobically demanding activity, too. You’ll get raised levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which, writes O’Mara, “could be thought of as a kind of a molecular fertiliser produced within the brain because it supports structural remodelling and growth of synapses after learning … BDNF increases resilience to ageing, and damage caused by trauma or infection.” Then there’s vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which helps to grow the network of blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.

Some people, I point out, don’t think walking counts as proper exercise. “This is a terrible mistake,” he says. “What we need to be is much more generally active over the course of the day than we are.” And often, an hour at the gym doesn’t cut it. “What you see if you get people to wear activity monitors is that because they engage in an hour of really intense activity, they engage in much less activity afterwards.”

But you don’t get the endorphin high from walking, I say. “The same hit you get from running is what you’d get from taking morphine? We simply don’t know that’s true,” he says. “People who study this area don’t go on about endorphins and there may be a reason for that.” Not that he is opposed to vigorous exercise, but walking is much more accessible and easily woven into everyday life: “You don’t need to bring anything other than comfy shoes and a rain jacket. You don’t have to engage in lots of preparation; stretching, warm-up, warm-down …” O’Mara gets off his commuter train a stop early so that he can clock up more steps on his pedometer. To get the maximum health benefits, he recommends that “speed should be consistently high over a reasonable distance – say consistently over 5km/h, sustained for at least 30 minutes, at least four or five times a week.”

Twice during our circuitous route, he asks me to point to where I think our starting point of Trinity College is, and my estimates are pretty close. “That just shows you how good your GPS is,” he says. “You have never been here before, but you have a very good sense of where you need to go.” This is reassuring, I say, because, of course, Google Maps is enfeebling our innate abilities to find our way. “That’s absolute garbage,” says O’Mara. “We really have to get a grip. If you hire a car and drive around a country you’ve never been in, taking a route into a city you’ve never driven into before, the first time, you rely very heavily on the GPS. The second time, not quite so much and, by the third or fourth time, you don’t need the GPS at all, because you’ve learned the route. I actually think GPS is great for helping us disambiguate where we are.”

So it’s mere speculation that relying on satnavs is killing our sense of direction? “Yeah it is. There is no data of any quality showing that, over the long term, reliance on GPS is a bad thing. Honestly, the brain is much more robust.”

O’Mara describes our inbuilt GPS, or cognitive mapping system, as a silent sense. “It is constructed largely without our awareness, and we only notice it if it fails us.” While the sensitive vestibular system of the inner ear governs balance, for mental mapping (which can work even when our eyes don’t), we have what are known as place cells in our hippocampi. If you stay in one place, the cell for that position keeps firing, but if you move, that cell will stop firing and a cell marking your new position will start firing and so on. In rat experiments, the system worked less well when the rodents were wheeled around as opposed to walking.

It’s clever, but not infallible. “We get fooled when we walk a long way in a single direction,” says O’Mara. We need to keep looking around us and recalibrating with visual cues. “If you’re feeding your place cells by coming from a single direction, what they know about the environment is that single direction and you want them to have input from all directions, so look around occasionally and your place cells will reset from the whole sensorium around you.”

While all this is going on in the background, our social brains are working to predict which direction others will take, to avoid collision. In order to walk and navigate, the brain flickers between regions, just as our waking minds are often, says O’Mara, “flickering between big-picture states – thinking about what we have to do tomorrow, plans for next year, engaging in what is called ‘mental time travel’ – and task-focused work. And you need to flicker between these states in order to do creative work.” That’s how important associations get made, and this flickering seems to be bolstered by walking.

It’s part of the reason, O’Mara suspects, that the prolific writer and thinker Bertrand Russell said that walking was integral to his work. Likewise, the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, who pondered a single problem on his daily walks for seven years, eventually inventing a number system called quaternions, without which we couldn’t make electric toothbrushes or mobile phones.

O’Mara’s ultimate ode to urban walking is TS Eliot’s 1915 poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, which he describes as “a journey on foot, and a journey through states of mind”. Wordsworth composed poetry as he wandered, while Aristotle delivered lectures on foot in the grounds of his school in Athens. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche memorably said that “only thoughts reached by walking have value”, a notion that Charles Dickens – who was as prolific a walker as he was a writer – would no doubt have seconded.

And, while my mind has been flickering through the streets of Dublin, says O’Mara, “you haven’t died or fallen over, and you’re continuing to breathe. Your heart is booming away. You’re putting one foot in front of the other, and we’re engaging in this conversation, information exchange.” Plus, I’m checking out the area, admiring fanlights and looking for clues of neighbourhood life. “All of this is going on all the time. Robots can’t do this. Getting a robot to cross the road is really hard.” Whereas for our brains, “evolution has been solving this problem, billions of times an hour, for the past 400m years”.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/28/its-a-superpower-how-walking-makes-us-healthier-happier-and-brainier?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR1C7GZhz9qgXI3uBbSoTXILLeXNU0zR6k2nSSC9UfiC-2eODDLs_Ixp1V8

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Extra 4,000 nurses needed in mental health to deliver ambitions in NHS Long Term Plan

More than 4,000 additional mental health nurses will be needed over the next five years to meet the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan, health service leaders have said in a report on implementing policies promised for mental health.

The new NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan for 2019-20 to 2023-24, which was published on Tuesday, sets out a framework explaining how the government arms’-length body NHS England aims to deliver on its commitments made for mental health services, as set out in its 10-year plan.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January, included promises to invest more in mental health services, with strategies such as 24/7 community-based mental health crisis response, liaison support in accident and emergency departments and the introduction of nurses in ambulance control rooms.

As part of the new implementation plan, NHS England has pledged that a ringfenced local investment fund, worth at least £2.3bn a year in real terms by 2023-24, will ensure the health service “provides high quality, evidence-based mental health services to an additional two million people”.

The 57-page document also gives a breakdown of “indicative” workforce numbers that it predicts will be needed to underpin the long-term plan’s ambitions for mental health services in the country.

Overall, the document recommends that, by 2023-24, there should be an additional 4,220 nursing staff working in mental health.

The plan suggested that the highest proportion of nursing staff was needed in children and young people’s mental health services, where it predicted that in five years’ time there should be an additional 2,110 nursing staff.

Meanwhile, for adult severe mental illness services in the community, the implementation plan recommends an extra 1,540 nurses will be needed by 2023-24 and that for perinatal mental health 110 extra nurses need to be in post in the same timeframe.

“It is good news that local areas will be more involved in developing their workforce, but we will need to see support from the centre”

Sean Duggan

NHS England said the numbers were meant only to be “indicative”, in order to help inform the local systems that will be developing local “people plans” to build a national picture of the workforce demand.

The local plan’s will then inform the final version of the NHS People Plan, which will provide a workforce strategy for the health service and is due later this year following the government’s next spending review. An interim version of the plan was published in June.

The indicative figures come on top of existing requirements specified for the workforce in the Stepping forward to 2020-21: the mental health workforce plan for England – which was published in 2017 and aimed to support the delivery of the Five-Year Forward View for Mental Health in England.

Back in 2017, it was suggested that an additional 8,100 nursing and midwifery staff were needed in mental health services by 2021.

NHS England’s latest plan for mental health also reiterates its pledge to introduce nurses and other health professionals into ambulance control rooms.

As outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan, health leaders want to introduce mental health nurses into this setting to help improve triage and response to mental health calls.

This forms part of the Mental Health and Ambulance Programme, which NHS England aims to deliver from 2020-21, according to the implementation plan.

NHS England has not specified how many nurses will be go into this role across the country, but it does suggest that the number of nurses working in the ambulance mental health provision should increase by 100 in the next five years.

“We must acknowledge that mental health services cannot succeed in a vacuum”

Sean Duggan

Interim chief executive at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust, Simon Truelove, told Nursing Times that it was “pleasing” to see the publication of the mental health implementation plan, as part of the wider long-term plan.

He said it set out a “clear and ambitious vision to transform mental health services and support increasing access to treatment and more specialised services, in a more personalised way”.

Mr Truelove said the trust particularly welcomed the “focus of a more localised approach to workforce and recruitment”, noting that attracting and retaining skills and expertise was “essential to provide first class treatment and support”.

“Having a plan for the short-term, as well as the medium and long-term will be crucial,” he said. “We are determined to take forward and implement this plan by addressing the challenges, transforming the services and ultimately provide the best possible care for those requiring mental health support.”

However, he told Nursing Times that investment was needed in the wider health and care system, including in social care, capital, public health and supported housing “if the vision of the long-term plan was to be achieved”.

Chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, Sean Duggan, said the implementation plan gave a “clear route” into “living the vision” of the NHS Long Term Plan, noting there was much to welcome.

However, he warned that workforce “remains a worry”.

“It is good news that local areas will be more involved in developing their workforce, but with mental health services suffering from particularly high vacancy rates, we will need to see support from the centre,” he said.

“And we must acknowledge that mental health services cannot succeed in a vacuum,” said Mr Duggan.

He added that mental health services should “work in partnership” with other parts of the system and reiterated the need for investment in the wider health and care system to help deliver the vision on the long-term plan.

Head of health policy and influencing at mental health charity Mind, Geoff Heyes, said this implementation plan “should help local areas to turn the ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan into reality”.

“It is vital that every local area is clear on what it needs to include in its plan and we expect the planning process to involve as many people with experience of mental health problems as possible, as well as experts in the voluntary sector,” he said.

Mr Heyes said the charity was looking forward to seeing “ambitious and transformational plans across the country and real tangible improvements to mental health services”.

https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/workforce/extra-4000-mental-health-nurses-needed-for-long-term-plan/7029835.article#

MR PORTER LAUNCHES SCHEME ENCOURAGING MEN TO SPEAK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Menswear retailer Mr Porter has launched a new initiative designed to create a safe space for men to discuss mental health.

The campaign, which is titled Health in Mind (HIM), has been created by the men’s style destination to help men “lead happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives”.

Mr Porter is making a commitment to raising awareness around physical and mental health via an ongoing programme of content in its online magazine, The Journal.

The initiative will include a series of features such as personal stories and advice from mental health experts on topics such as conflict and stress.

While the retailer admits it doesn’t “have all of the answers”, it has vowed to dedicate more time to talking about mental health, starting with a feature on what it calls one of the “foundational pillars of a fulfilling life”: friendship.

To mark the launch of HIM, Mr Porter asked a number of men in the fashion industry to explain what bonds them together in a bid to encourage more men to reach out to their friends.

Luke Day, editor of British GQ Style in the UK, said: “I love how things are changing. It shouldn’t be a shameful thing to show vulnerability. Or to be kind.

“And now that it’s seen as the right thing to do, it feels like we can all finally relax. Because it’s the easiest thing to do, too. It’s what comes naturally.”

The feature follows a recent survey on male friendships conducted by The Movember Foundation, which found that men have a tendency to drift apart from their friends as they get older.

The poll stated that while just seven per cent of men under the age of 24 said that they lacked a close friend, this figure rose to 19 per cent for men over the age of 55.

As well as encouraging men to discuss their emotions more freely, the initiative also plans to raise funds for a number of charities working to promote and support men’s health, including Mr Porter’s men’s health charity partner, The Movember Foundation.

The retailer states that consumers will be able to donate to the HIM fund when it launches later this year.

Speaking to The |ndependent, Justin Coghlan, co-founder of The Movember Foundation said:  “Globally, every minute, a man dies by suicide. The keys to unlocking mental wellness often begins with a conversation, and we’re excited to be igniting this global conversation with Mr Porter and our shared audiences.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of Mr Porter’s integrated, multi-touch approach to supporting mental health and wellness, and furthering Movember’s mission to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/mr-porter-health-mind-men-mental-health-movember-foundation-a9020021.html

Mental health: Primary school head teachers speak out about lack of support

Some primary school pupils are being repeatedly rejected for mental health support, BBC News has learned.

There’s been a near 50% increase in referrals to child health services from pupils aged 11 and under, over the past three years. But some children are on a waiting list for years before being offered help.

Three head teachers spoke to the BBC about the lack of support for children in their schools, click link below for video.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/education-49018831/mental-health-primary-school-head-teachers-speak-out-about-lack-of-support?fbclid=IwAR2s-5pelz-CLFHk_dNHe_J3VONa_DJR0PRrDwHqTqkJC4fro5G5CEnazRk

How Leaning Into Your Anxiety Can Help You Manage It

A woman sits on a cushion surrounded by tea lights, meditatingWhen people call my office looking for relief from their anxiety, I explain that we all experience anxiety from time to time because our bodies are wired for it. It’s a neurobiological response that we inherited from our ancestors long, long ago. It’s about safety. It’s unlikely it will go away with a few tools or strategies.

Anxiety peaks when we perceive danger. That danger could be concrete, like being in the path of a dangerous hurricane, where the risk of losing your property or your life is very real. Or the danger you sense might be less clear. Maybe someone’s voice, a smell, or a song brings up uncomfortable feelings, leaving you feeling anxious. You might be able to pinpoint what made you fearful and anxious, but sometimes you get anxious and don’t know why. When this happens, it’s probably because an implicit memory has surfaced.

WHAT ARE IMPLICIT MEMORIES?

Implicit memories are memories that are stored in our unconscious. Most of the time, we’re not aware of them. They’re usually triggered by something in our environment—a smell, a taste or sound, the way something feels in our hands or under our feet, or the way something looks. When they surface, our bodies react to the potential danger. We feel anxious but we’re not sure why. We might feel like our anxiety came out of nowhere. What really happened was the body sensed a danger that was buried deep in our unconscious memory.

So, how do we manage anxiety that is sparked by something we aren’t fully aware of? First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that anxiety serves a purpose. It alerts us to danger so we can protect ourselves. That’s why it’s not going to go away altogether. If we can be okay with the fact we will always have some anxiety, we can start to work toward managing anxiety when it feels out of our control.

BE CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR ANXIETY

Before you begin, know it’s important to take care of yourself while you explore what’s happening. Take some slow, deep breaths; drink a cup of tea; get out your essential oils and diffuse them. Burn incense or a candle that smells good and be sure you’re in a place that’s comfortable and safe.

The first step is to be curious about how your anxiety shows up. At first, try exploring how your body feels when you’re not anxious. As you get to know your body’s reactions to stress, you’ll start to become aware that your body tells you when your anxiety is ramping up.

Next, you’ll want to pay attention to how your body talks to you. You might ask yourself:

  • “Where in my body do I feel my anxiety? Is it in my chest, my shoulders or throat, my back or legs?”
  • “How is my body reacting? Is my heart racing? Are my breaths shallow and quick? Am I hot or cold?”
  • “Does my stomach feel like butterflies, or nauseous?”

Acknowledging that your anxiety will surface from time to time, sometimes for what seems like no reason at all, gives you permission to be with it and to be curious about it when it shows up.

The next step is to dig deep into what happens in your head. Your views about what’s going on can affect how you react when you’re stressed or anxious. If you assume the worst, you’re probably going to feel anxious. That’s why it’s important to be curious about how you interpret things happening to you or around you. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking right now? What meaning am I making around this event?”

If an implicit memory triggered your anxiety, your body will feel like it’s actually in the past, at the time the memory formed. You want to bring yourself back to the here-and-now. To do that, take a look around and name a few things you can see hear, smell, or touch. This is called “grounding.”

Lastly, explore how your physical reactions and your thoughts about the anxiety make you feel. Research has shown that naming feelings can help ease intense, difficult emotions. Naming emotions reduces activity in the part of the brain that senses danger, and activates the part that promotes problem-solving and curiosity. Try to pinpoint the feeling with your description. Instead of saying you’re happy or sad, you might say you’re feeling elated or rejected.

OFFER YOURSELF COMPASSION

It’s really important not to judge yourself when you investigate your anxiety. If you can, just note what’s going on and respond with curiosity. Ask yourself how you would respond if a friend were experiencing the same thing. Can you offer yourself that same compassion?

BRING ANXIETY OUT INTO THE OPEN

Do you see what’s happening here? Instead of pushing the anxiety away, yelling at yourself for being anxious, or trying to ignore the feeling, you’re leaning into it. You’re beginning to get to know it better, you’re approaching it with some compassion, and you’re allowing it to be there while you investigate. As you go through this process, you might find the anxiety begins to lessen. Anxiety loves secrets and hiding, so bringing it out into the open can reduce its power.

Acknowledging that your anxiety will surface from time to time, sometimes for what seems like no reason at all, gives you permission to be with it and to be curious about it when it shows up.

Reference:

University of California-Los Angeles. (2007, June 22). Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070622090727.htm

Original link 

Nottingham Pride 2019

We are incredibly proud to be part of #NottinghamPride2019 and will be hosting an information stall during pride this weekend.

If you see us please come and say hi! We’d love to meet and chat to as many of you. Our lovely team are on hand to provide info and answer questions.

The Pride parade will start on the corner of Lister Gate in the city at 11am and finish on the ‘rainbow road’ in Broad Street.

The city centre will be decorated with over 100 rainbow flags, provided by local print suppliers Fast Graphics and John E Wright.

“Nottingham is a diverse city that celebrates equality, inclusivity and respect. We want all of our citizens to feel supported and are proud of our diverse LGBT+ residents.”

As soon as the parade comes to an end, the Sheriff of Nottingham will kick off the afternoon celebrations at 12pm with a speech on the main stage on Heathcoat Street.

There will be over 40 stalls along Heathcoat and Broad Street with opportunities to chat to local businesses, visit the free glitter make-up tent, learn about LGBT+ history, do a spot of shopping and find out more information about the essential services on offer to LGBT+ people across the city.

A packed entertainment programme will continue on the main stage up to 6pm, followed by a vigil and then a variety of after parties to choose from – some ending as late as 7am.

Pride stage line up

12:00 – Sheriff of Nottingham (Speech)

12:10 – The Scream Queens

12:30 – Smashby

13:00 – Tash Bird

13:30 – I am Questioned

14:00 – Kitty Tray

14:45 – Michaela Weeks

15:15 – Franx

15:45 – Scream Queenz

16:00 – Surely Bassey

16:30 – Sybil

17:00 – Betsy

17:30 – Alison Jiear

18:00 – Vigil

18:45 – Event close

Happy Pride everyone, Harmless team x

Behind the Scenes – A day in the life of a Suicide Crisis Support Officer

Over the next few months we will be bringing you a series of interviews ‘behind the scenes’ from different team members. We hope these interviews will show what happens behind the scenes and give a more personal side to the work that happens in both Harmless and The Tomorrow Project.

Our first interview in this exciting new collection is from Bevan. We hope you enjoy it.

Meet Bevan…

Q: What’s your role at The Tomorrow Project?

A: I work as a suicide crisis support officer and also in sustainability and data collection. My main role as a support officer involves seeing people in crisis, at risk of suicide or thinking of suicide in some way. This role takes up four days of my week and then one other day is data collection, data analyses and service evaluation…..which is quite fun!

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the importance of data collection?

A: At the moment we have a lot of data collected from the past several years which we are compiling into something that we can get some information from, rather than just a big list of numbers. I’m going to be looking at themes such as: who presented to the service, who’s improving, how much are they improving etc. This is ahead of the IASP conference in September (The International Association for Suicide prevention) which we will be presenting at.

The data collection allows us to understand why some people might not be improving, so we can look at what we can do better for people who are presenting at the service, or if there’s more women than men despite the fact men tend to complete suicide more…why is that? The data might tell us something about the service that would make it more accessible for men and certain at risk groups. That’s something I’m going to be exploring over the next few months.

Q: What age range do you support?

At The Tomorrow Project we don’t have anyone age range, we support people from 0-100! There is really no exclusion criteria for The Tomorrow Project around age etc, only around clients who already access secondary mental health services.

Q: Where are you based over the week?

A: I work in Nottingham four days over the week and East Leake one day. On Thursdays I go to East Leake and that means people across the country or out of city will be able to access support and find it easier to attend.

Q: Can you tell me an example of how a session with you might look?

A: Something I like to emphasize quite a lot with clients is the relationship we have, rather than trying to force someone out of suicide crisis. Instead of forcing someone through crisis and trying to convince them not to take their own life it’s more about understanding from their perspective why they want to take their own life, or why they might be considering suicide. Personally I think that’s the best way forward, I think if we are trying to force someone to move through crisis I don’t think it works. Comments such as “just move on, come on, just get better!”, I think disregards how people are really feeling. We sometimes have to go along with people around their journey and often that does lead to recovery. We would look at reasons why someone might want to take their life, working from an emotional and practical perspective. I have the opportunity to work from both of those angles so rather than just looking at the emotional I can support someone who might also be struggling with issues such as housing. If their situation is difficult and isn’t changing it’s very unlikely that anything else will really permanently change, if a person is constantly going back to the same environment of stress/distress etc. So working from both perspectives of practical and emotional support…and I really do enjoy that. It lets you look at suicide crisis from more of a broader way.

I don’t like to force someone out of crisis, I stand with them. Often people are quite ambivalent about life or death, something might be pulling them more towards life or something might be pulling them more towards death. My job in some way is to minimize the death pulls and maximize the life pulls. What that sometimes looks like is just talking and listening, and trying to understand from their perspective why something is pulling them towards one thing or the other. A lot of my sessions are just talking either about life in general, or about their friends/family/interests, and sometimes it’s quite intense around suicide prevention. I guess a skill I hold Is adaptability, not every client is the same, not every session is the same and people are different and also in different stages of suicide crisis.  Some clients are imminently in crisis and then some people are just entering the beginnings of thinking about suicide.

Q: It sounds like some really challenging work and I’m wondering what you do to keep yourself safe and what do you do for self-care?

A: We get supervision in the service which is fantastic. I have really wonderful colleagues who all understand the stress that can come when working with clients who are highly distressed. I think especially with TP (Tomorrow Project) crisis, everyone we see in some way wants to die or take their own life. Part of this work means I get to help people through from presentation to discharge and that’s really nice. I see people come in in distress or in crisis, it’s one thing to want to end your own life but another is knowing that you can get through it and with the right help they will. Colleagues, supervision and seeing people get through it is really helpful for me. Outside of work I really like playing video games, watching Netflix and going to music festivals.

Q: What made you want to work in suicide crisis or in the field of mental health?

A:  I guess for me, suicide is something people talk about in quite an abstract way sometimes. Especially looking at research, which I think can sometimes be quite impersonal and theory driven “this is why people do this, this is why people do that”. I think that’s great having theories and understandings of suicide as a process, but with that said I think it can take the person out of it. Research can be quite clinical, quite cold, talking about a really difficult topic in quite a sterilised way and I think for real suicide prevention people need to be involved. We need to understand suicide from not just a research perspective but from actually working with people who are experiencing this every day.

I think suicide prevention can sometimes become quite an abstract thing. People often say “we need to stop suicide” and share things on Facebook, which I think is good, suicide awareness is good but I think we need to sometimes step beyond just sharing posts and actually do sometimes about it. I’ve worked here for three years and I like to think I’ve helped some people in those three years but I guess I’m only one person and one service and this needs to be more of a nationwide thing across the country, not just Nottingham and the East Midlands.

Suicide prevention I wanted to work in because I just seemed to me the right more, something I wanted to do and really interesting and worthy thing to do with my time.

Q: Final questions to end with a bit of fun! What is your favourite cake and least favourite food?

A: I have recently become a fan of carrot cake, I love it! Pickled onion for sure! Not a chance! Never again.

 

A huge thanks to Bevan for making time for such a content rich and educational interview, we really get a sense of how passionate you are about your role so thank you for sharing that with us. 

If you have ideas or suggestions for future interviews please drop us an email at info@harmless.org.uk, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

To cure my chronic pain, I had to learn about the links between mind and body

Chronic pain is an ongoing epidemic. It debilitates around 28 million adults in the UK alone. Yet society seems to have grown comfortable with there being no cure. Perhaps this is because we have been searching for the wrong type of answer, in the wrong place.

I should begin by briefly explaining my own experience of chronic pain and what, seemingly against the odds, has helped me find relief.

After graduating from university last summer, I suffered a repetitive strain injury in both hands while doing a temporary office job. I stopped being able to work and had to put on hold my pursuit of a career in writing. I couldn’t use a computer, write with a pen or even eat with a knife and fork without severe pain. I underwent months of physiotherapy. This helped build my confidence slightly, but the pain continued. I was repeatedly told that I needed to change my posture including how I sat, stood, walked and slept. As a result, I became hyperaware of my body. The pain began to spread to my neck and arm. Diagnoses including scoliosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome and pinched nerves were proffered and I was given exercise after exercise while receiving conflicting medical advice. The problem was affecting every part of my life and I needed to find answers.

Strange as it might sound, I wanted there to be something wrong so that the pain I was experiencing would be recognised and, hopefully, treated. I had tests done for various diseases, and to detect muscle or nerve damage, but nothing was found. Confused looks on the faces of the medical professionals I saw only increased my own emerging self-doubt.

Eventually, I was told that I had chronic pain, that there wasn’t a cure and I would have to learn to manage and not aggravate it. This was deeply depressing, not only because I wanted to be able to write. As anyone who suffers from ongoing pain anywhere in the body knows, it can make even the most basic daily tasks a huge challenge. My condition was finally described as work-related upper limb disorder and it was concluded that I had developed a resistance to repetitive work, which seemed nonsensical and felt wholly unsatisfying.

It was only when I began to understand that the mind and body, rather than being separate, are intimately connected, that things started to finally change for the better. I had been aware that stress could sometimes induce physical symptoms such as headaches, but I would never have believed that psychological factors could be the cause of such severe, scary and concrete pain. It was only at moments of peak desperation that I was able to entertain this idea. My symptoms were definitely real, but they were also mysterious; they moved around and the intensity of the pain varied from day to day. I would describe the sensations I experienced as burning, pressure, sharpness and tingling.

So what was going on? First of all it is important to know a bit about how pain works. Acute pain is a helpful process that occurs when there is an injury or illness. It gradually decreases and dissipates once healing is complete. If pain persists after three months, it is deemed chronic. Chronic pain doesn’t always originate from an injury, and, if it does, it can continue even once healing is complete. What this tells us is that the driving force behind it is the brain.

But that doesn’t mean it’s “all in the mind”. Far from it. Chronic pain is associated with physical changes in the brain at the cortical level. These changes can produce something called “central sensitisation” – where the nervous system goes into overdrive and previously normal sensations generate intense pain. A whole vocabulary goes along with this: allodynia is the term for when non-harmful stimuli, such as a light touch, results in pain. In hyperalgesia, harmful stimuli produce heightened or prolonged pain.

Why do some people experience chronic pain? We don’t know for sure, but studies show that particular psychological and personality traits are risk factors for chronic pain conditions. Some vulnerable individuals, they suggest, learn to filter emotions and actions “through the lens of pain”. An interplay between early lifetime and environmental and epigenetic factors appears to be at work.

Once you understand that the mind and body are not separate, it seems plausible that, if pain tells us when there is something wrong physically, it can tell us when there is something wrong mentally too. I decided to listen to my body and integrate that with what was going on in my mind. After much research and finding the right help, I set out to heal emotionally. I stopped taking pain medication, stopped physio and started moving how I used to. (I want to stress that no one should take any steps to alter their treatment without consultation with a doctor.) I considered potential repressed emotions from life events, including in childhood, and used different techniques to explore them all. This enabled me to acknowledge things, feel them and sometimes let them go. As my fear and pain levels gradually decreased, I began to resume normal physical activity, including writing and typing. It is not easy to access feelings that our brains, in simple terms, may have pushed aside and replaced with pain. But it comes with great rewards and a sense of empowerment.

The way I came to understand all this happened to be through a book, The Mindbody Prescription by Dr John Sarno. Others might be influenced by a sympathetic doctor, a news article or even this piece of writing. I’ve almost completely recovered – a dramatic shift after eight months of debilitation. I will keep practicing the techniques I’ve learned, and studying the science, since I’m aiming to get back to full health.

Pain is complex. Sometimes, even when it’s long-lasting, it can be a sign of ongoing injury or undiagnosed disease. It’s important to seek medical advice in order to exclude potentially dangerous conditions. I’m aware that even in cases, like mine, where there isn’t an underlying structural problem, it might be difficult or impossible for others to replicate my experience. I simply hope that mounting evidence will demand a change within the practice of conventional medicine: most importantly a change in the way patients’ conditions are explained to them, one that means they aren’t made to feel hopeless, or crazy.

We have come far in trying to remove the taboo around mental health, so why not take a step further and join the “mental” to the “physical”? The prize would be that many chronic pain patients might start to feel a little less lost and, hopefully, find the tools they need to begin to heal.

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